Articles | Volume 9, issue 2
Research article
05 Mar 2013
Research article |  | 05 Mar 2013

Arctic rapid sea ice loss events in regional coupled climate scenario experiments

R. Döscher and T. Koenigk

Abstract. Rapid sea ice loss events (RILEs) in a mini-ensemble of regional Arctic coupled climate model scenario experiments are analyzed. Mechanisms of sudden ice loss are strongly related to atmospheric circulation conditions and preconditioning by sea ice thinning during the seasons and years before the event. Clustering of events in time suggests a strong control by large-scale atmospheric circulation. Anomalous atmospheric circulation is providing warm air anomalies of up to 5 K and is forcing ice flow, affecting winter ice growth. Even without a seasonal preconditioning during winter, ice drop events can be initiated by anomalous inflow of warm air during summer. It is shown that RILEs can be generated based on atmospheric circulation changes as a major driving force without major competing mechanisms, other than occasional longwave effects during spring and summer. Other anomalous seasonal radiative forcing or short-lived forcers (e.g., soot) play minor roles or no role at all in our model. RILEs initiated by ocean forcing do not occur in the model, although cannot be ruled out due to model limitations. Mechanisms found are qualitatively in line with observations of the 2007 RILE.